116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - After spending more than $140,000 on a consultant and 18 months of searching, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has yet to hire someone to oversee its hundreds of nurses.
Hospitals spokesman Tom Moore said a nine-member search committee has interviewed or is in the process of interviewing 'several candidates,” noting the university doesn't disclose specific numbers in groups of individuals smaller than five for fear of identifying someone.
Asked if the university has finalists, Moore said, 'The search is ongoing.”
Hospital system officials would not disclose just how many people applied for the position of chief nursing officer, which was first advertised Aug. 2, 2016.
The university cited a section of Iowa Code that shields the identities of applicants as a justification for keeping that information secret, though the section does not specifically address the question of revealing the number of people who submitted applications.
The hospital system appointed members to its search committee after former Chief Nursing Officer Kenneth Rempher announced in June 2016 he was leaving to become executive vice president and health system chief nurse executive for Cone Health System in Greensboro, N.C.
After issuing a call for interested search firms, the university chose Korn Ferry International, based in Los Angeles, out of 10 applicants.
Its initial contract with Korn Ferry required the university to pay the consultant a professional fee equal to one-third of the new hire's first-year total cash compensation.
The agreement estimated the professional fee at $120,000 - slightly more than one-third of Rempher's $329,993 salary when he left.
Additionally, the university must pay Korn Ferry for two types of expenses - a flat charge for administrative expenses equal to 12 percent of the consultant fee, and a second for additional search expenses like food and travel.
That initial contract lapsed without a hire.
The university extended it through June 30, which upped the consultant fee. Still without a hire, the university extended the contract twice more - once to Sept. 30 and then to Dec. 31.
The university's search for a leader of its thousands-strong nursing operation comes as understaffing on the hospital campus remains a top concern - with a national nursing shortage hitting home and costing the institution millions.
In response to a swelling patient load and too few nurses, the university recently has relied more on 'traveling nurses,” those who hop from hospital to hospital depending on the need.
Over the summer, the hospital reported using the full-time equivalent of 216 travelers - up from just nine in 2014.
Many of the university's traveling nurses earn a starting hourly rate of $59, without benefits. Meanwhile, starting pay for an inpatient staff nurse amounts to $26.29 an hour based on the typical work hours a year. Including benefits, average total base compensation for a staff nurse is about $43.20 an hour.
Thanks to recruitment fairs and targeted hiring, hospital system Chief Executive Officer Ken Kates in October reported progress in dropping the nursing vacancy rate from 13.6 percent in March to 9.9 percent.
The university now employs 2,824 registered nurses, up from 2,648 this summer. The majority - 1,919 - have bachelor's degrees, while others have either associate or advanced degrees.
The hospital system also employs 50 licensed practical nurses, who are not required to hold a college degree.
Since Rempher's departure in 2016, the medical campus has undergone significant change.
It opened a $360 million 14-floor Stead Family Children's Hospital, adding 507,000 square feet and 134 patient beds. Its longtime leader - Vice President for Medical Affairs for UI Health Care Jean Robillard - retired. J. Brooks Jackson, formerly of the University of Minnesota, was hired to fill that role.
Cindy Dawson, who was director of nursing services and ambulatory nursing, was tapped to provide interim leadership after Rempher left. Emily Wynn, who was a division leader, became interim associate chief nursing officer.
Dawson, in the interim position, is earning $221,458 and Wynn is making $175,000.
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